Mortimer Saunders was found guilty on Wednesday of the rape and premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters in Cape Town.
Judge Pearl Mantame made the finding at about noon on Wednesday after delivering a lengthy judgement.
Saunders confessed to killing Courtney‚ who lived in Elsies River‚ with ant poison and claimed that he had then committed necrophilia.
She was murdered in May 2017 and her body was only found days later after a massive search.
Mantame rejected the self-confessed murder’s version that he did not rape the child but only inserted his fingers into her after she had died.
“The accused is not honest‚” said Mantame. “The fact that he said he inserted his fingers … is because he did not want to be convicted for rape.”
The gallery erupted with rounds of applause. Mantame granted Courtney’s mother‚ Juanita Pieters‚ immunity from prosecution.
A calm Saunders expressed no emotion as he was convicted. He stared ahead. TimesLIVE reported earlier that in his plea explanation in May‚ Saunders said: “I unlawfully and intentionally committed a sexual act with a corpse.”
Courtney was murdered in her home in Elsies River in May last year. Saunders was a tenant there at the time and he was also friends with Courtney’s father‚ Aaron Fourie. The little girl was in the care of her six-year-old brother.
According to Saunders‚ she irritated him by waking him up because she wanted to watch television in his room.
“Irritated for having been woken a second time‚ and compounded by ill feelings between myself and her mother‚ I decided to give her ant poison‚” Saunders said.
He had bought the poison‚ in powder form‚ months earlier to repel ants in his room. He mixed it with water. “Initially she did not want to drink it‚ but on telling her to do so she did‚” he said.
The incident received wide media coverage at the time. Then-president Jacob Zuma visited the family and said he was appalled at Saunders’ act. “That a man who stays here can rape the child‚ kill the child in the bedroom… and break every bone to make the child fit in a plastic bag… it shows something has gone wrong with society‚” said Zuma.
Courtney’s body was found nine days after her disappearance‚ with her killer leading the search party away from where she lay. The matter has been postponed to December 4 for sentencing procedures.